Which eye-catching annuals would you choose if your garden covered an entire park and you could select from thousands of plants? The question isn’t as far-fetched as you might think! Wander for a few hours through the Trial Gardens at Colorado State University and you’ll see what I mean.
The C.S.U. Flower Trials are part of a nation-wide program to test which plants do best in realistic outdoor growing conditions in different parts of the country. The gardens sprawl over nearly three acres just east of the C.S.U. campus at College Avenue and Lake Street in Fort Collins.
The plants being “trialed” are supplied by several of the leading plant breeders and growers in the country. Some of the varieties you’ll see are new to the market. Others have been improved over previous strains. Still others are plants that the breeders and growers simply want to receive more attention.
C.S.U. Trials and Tagawa Gardens
Every year in August, the crew from Annuals Department at Tagawa’s visits the C.S.U. Trial Gardens to see what plants are especially eye-catching or robust or just plain different. I tagged along recently, and paid close attention as members of our annuals crew took notes. Here are some of the plants that drew praise.
A crowd favorite is the coleus you’ll see at the top of this blog. “Royal Stained Glassworks” is even more eye-popping in person than the picture shows. The dark burgundy saw-toothed edges surround a neon coral center that runs down the middle of each leaf. It’s a beauty! I’d love to be able to grow it in my own garden!
“Golden Butterfly” Argyranthemum
We’re used to seeing these tiny daisy-like flowers in white and pale yellow, but “Golden Butterfly” is an in-your-face bold and beautiful lemon yellow. Woof! If the growers release it for the 2018 season, it will be a hit! Beautiful in planted as a big patch in a bed or as a bright statement in a mixed container.
It’s tall. It’s elegant. And it’s absolutely a show-stopper! “Finesse” is similar to a another variety of verbena bonariensis that I planted in a large flower pot this season. Couldn’t be more pleased! As a beekeeper who loves to treat my “girls” to all the purple flowers I can find, this is definitely a keeper!
As you can see, “Finesse” is a butterfly magnet, too. What’s not to love about this beautiful plant!
Whether you plant a large clump of this in a bed, or mix it in as a star attraction in large flower pots, you won’t be disappointed!
Deborah, the co-supervisor of Tagawa’s Annuals and Production, fell in love with this plant! It’s taller than most lantanas… almost knee-high. The tiny clusters of red flowers with yellow centers make for a beautiful mass planting. The seeds are sterile so the plant will continue to bloom longer. It’s new to the trade. I would love to see it in my garden next season!
“Copper Prince” Millet
Most of the plants at the C.S.U. trials are grown as annuals in our climate, but not all of them have flowers in the traditional sense. One of my favorites: a beautiful dark burgundy millet called “Copper Prince.” This big, robust plant with its furry and hefty seed heads would overpower smaller containers, but very large pots or areas at the back of a bed would be purr-fect! It makes for a rich-looking unique accent. Very different and very fun!
“Empress Sun” Verbena
If it looks like this flower is almost glowing, believe it! This stunning, densely red verbena is newly-arrived on the market. The deep red centers and scarlet petals make for a stunning combination. What a gorgeous plant! Whether it’s planted en masse in a bed or as a co-star in a mixed container, it will be a winner!
Visit the C.S.U. Trials Yourself!
The trials gardens are free and open to the public. The plants growing there aren’t babied. They don’t get any “special” treatment beyond what they’d receive in the average home garden. Once the first frost arrives, they’ll be done.
But if you’re curious what’s going on in the home flower gardening trade…. and interested in seeing some of the new and improved plants that may be on the Tagawa plant benches next spring, pull on a comfortable pair of shoes and make a point to visit. And dream of a brand new gardening season to come!